Yes. I’m late to the party. But this movie screamed at me to make a review. Not so much on the cinematography, or the acting, or set design, or CGI–all of those things had their varying degrees of quality. What I want to really focus on was the script.
Which makes sense, as this is my blog about writing.
So let’s break it up into digestible chunks. Oh and SPOILERS AHEAD for those like me that waited a while to see it.
This is a tricky one. As some of this can be put on the director’s shoulders. But there were several key things in the script that I felt could have been cut for time and pacing–as they didn’t add anything to the plot.
The River people. Why on earth were they a part of this film? They added nothing to the plot. Initially the idea sounds great. A village of women who have lost their husbands to the war and now live a secluded live along the river. Unfortunately their function was only to let the Huntsman know who Show White was. That could have been handled easily by the dwarves. Who are arguably the most interesting characters in the film and don’t show up until close to the mid point.
The script likes to take leave of its internal logic on several occasions. On on others, just isn’t logical at all. For instance, the Queen commands her brother to find someone to go into the Dark Forest(TM) to find Snow White. Cut to The Huntsman getting the crap kicked out of him in a bar brawl.
So, am I going to pick the guy who’s winning the fight? Or the loser? Obviously the loser! He must be a downtrodden warrior ready to make his comeback.
I’ll concede that they later explain he’s survived the forest before. But his introduction wouldn’t inspire me to hire him at all.
But here is where even that idea breaks down. After they lose him, they hire more thugs to go. Now we have an entire D&D party worth of soldiers who’ve gone into the forest and all appear much more capable. So why would I have bothered with the Huntsman to begin with? The script completely undercuts the importance of his ability to traverse the Dark Forest(TM).
But the biggest slap in the face comes when Bob Hoskins’ character says that Snow White is the “essence of Life.” OK, she’s the antithesis of the Queen who is death incarnate. Got it.
Then not ten minutes later when the bad guys attack them, a dwarf throws himself in front of Snow White to save her from an arrow coming her way. The little dwarf lay dying in her arms, arrow sticking up through his chest. But that’s OK, Snow White is the essence of life. She’ll bring him back and demonstrate her power, right?
She lets him die.
Looks like she’s the essence of “Meh.”
Too Many Characters, Not Enough Time
This ties back into pacing. The script writers crammed far too many characters into the film. Characters that all serve a similar function and so they can be combined. Snow White has a child hood friend named William that grows up to come save her. But he is essentially filling the same role as The Huntsman. These two could have been the same character.
You could even attach the Huntsman to the group of thugs and they all go out together. Where he has a change of heart, saves her, and whisks her away from the pursuers. Simple and effective way to tighten up the script.
As for the River People, they could be combined with the dwarves. River Dwarves? Hrm, I may have to hold onto that one. Anyway, for the purposes of this movie, cut the River People and move the dwarves up. The dwarves could push the plot along more effectively than a village of people that have maybe five minutes of screen time.
I’ll take you through my thoughts on how this story could be done in a cleaner method.
The beginning is roughly the same. Evil Witch tricks King into marrying her (now Evil Queen), and opens gates for her army to roll in. She imprisons Snow White (even though the Evil Overlord Handbook says kill her then and there). Ten years later Snow escapes into the Dark Forest(TM) with the help of her animal friends.
Evil Queen sets a bounty. “Need Trackers to retrieve prisoner. Pays Well. Dark Forest experience a plus.” The Huntsman–along with his fellow thugs–sign up as they don’t have much to lose. They don’t ask who they’re tracking because frankly, they want the money. However, when they find Snow White he reneges on the contract. Not willing to turn over a “harmless girl.”
The other thugs don’t care and a fight erupts. We get to see his ability to fight and the two get away.
They are able to get out of the Dark Forest unharmed. But then, ack!, dwarven bandits attack while crossing a bridge. The Huntsman is outnumbered and Snow White is trussed up. Unfortunately for everyone, a Troll lives by that bridge and goes after everyone. We get to see how the dwarves work together and within the fight must work with the Huntsman.
Snow White, right before the Huntsman is smashed to bits, screams out for the Troll to stop. He obeys and everyone is stunned. Her powers of life and ability to commune with nature sends the Troll away. The dwarves are floored and their leader realizes who she is.
They take everyone to Sanctuary where it is explained to the Huntsman who she is. We get our meeting with the White Stag and explanation that she’s the essence of Life. Then, when the Thugs attack, everything goes like the movie accept she brings life back to the dead dwarf.
We now have to get her to the Duke and raise an army. On our travels there we get the bit where she eats the poisoned apple. Sad day, take her to the Duke anyway. Huntsman kisses her and she comes “back to life.” Everyone is emboldened by her and off to war!
Big change here. She’s isn’t dressed in mail and wielding a sword. Instead we set her up as something of a wizard. Using her abilities to perhaps, calm people. Or heal those in battle. Perhaps even able to repel arrows with discs of light. We’ve already had Trolls and Fairies. Why not good magic?
This makes the final confrontation with the Evil Queen an epic wizard’s duel. Time for everyone to sling spells instead of her instantly knowing martial skills.
The end would play out much the same.
At least, that’s how I would have done it. Maybe next time they’ll ask me to write the script.